Observed in July, National Minority Mental Health Month brings awareness to the unique challenges faced by our nation’s diverse minority groups. Due in part to a history of cultural stigma and lack of access to health care services, these groups often struggle to receive diagnoses for behavioral health issues.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cautions that health disparities faced by underrepresented communities “negatively affect the mental and physical health of millions of people, preventing them from attaining their highest level of health and consequently affecting the health of our nation.”
When it comes to managing mental health, this year’s theme centers around culture, community, and connection. Check out the following suggestions to get started prioritizing mental wellness for the whole family.
- Create Connections with Others. It is important to feel a sense of belonging and security within our neighborhoods. Activities like shopping, dining, exercise or worship bring an opportunity to build social connections. This can lead to an extended support network of people to assist with childcare or meals when needed, as well as shared family friendly gatherings. Meaningful interactions and having people to call upon are essential stress relievers.
- Be an Active Community Member. Community brings more than social connections; it’s also an opportunity to find purpose. Take pride in where you live and work to make it a better place through volunteering and advocacy work. Get involved in issues you care about (like education or health services) through rallies or town hall meetings. Be sure to enlist children’s help when appropriate, like charity walks or collecting donations.
- Take Time for Self-care. Be sure to care for both your body and mind. To reduce stress and anxiety, consider meditation, breathing exercises, or yoga — find helpful guides on YouTube or in the app store. Listening to music, keeping a gratitude journal, praying, or reading are also healthy calming practices. For physical health, aim for a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains and limit simple sugars and saturated fats. A routine of regular exercise and sufficient sleep round out a healthy lifestyle.
- Talk Openly about Mental Health. Develop an environment of openness and trust that allows you and others to feel comfortable discussing mental health. Some pointers for these types of conversations include setting aside appropriate time and space, being honest, and validating emotions without downplaying or dismissing them. This can no doubt be difficult, but increasing visibility of mental health issues within minority communities breaks the stigma and encourages people to get support when needed.
- Seek Resources. In addition to commonly experienced life stressors, minority groups may also be impacted by additional trauma. Therapy provides tools so you can better handle the past, present and future in a healthier way. Seek a culturally competent therapist who is respectful of differences, appreciating that everyone has a unique identity and set of needs. To find a mental health program or resources that are a good fit, check out FindTreatment.gov, search the directory at Mental Health America or American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s extensive list of inclusive resources organized by community. For free, immediate, and confidential support at any time, call or text 988, the Suicude and Crisis Lifeline.
When focusing on mental wellness, remember to keep in mind the importance of culture, community, and connection. When intertwined, you’ll find support and belonging to help you better navigate daily life.